"Fast...FFaaaaster... Full speed mein!!!!"
Drill Saab was crying hoarse. Like machines tuned to perfection the six of us present in the circle swung our arms in 'a plane perpendicular to the plane of the body' (vertical circle for the aam junta). I looked at Dillu-mon. He was sweating profusely; it had not gone well for him at all. He had taken three days off the conditioning to organise the Onam celebrations and it had not gone well for him at all. Not when after the seven initial rounds punctuated by two running up and down the steps, DS had announced a 'buddy-lift' around the ground followed by a rucksack lifting, up and down the steps. Pheww that last one almost took our lives away. It was decided to be stopped only when some imaginary counter in DS's brain told him to do so. And sometimes it seemed that his brain had gone to finish its night's sleep. Today as we swung into the last 10 rounds up and down the steps, Dillu-mon panted like my neighbour's labrador when it wound up on the final stretch on its routine run around the neighbourhood. Rivers of sweat running down his face, Dillu-mon hung his tongue out just like Gypsy(that's what we called the lab) and tried his hardest to take his next step from the bottom-step. "Nothing doing Iam not moving another inch", he mimed in telepathic gestures to me and Chachan and stayed on the lowermost step. As he painted a very vivid picture of the damsel in distress, DS took no notice and continued his count "FIVE..." and we climbed up the steps again.
So it was that after the steps and squats-yes, there were squats with a 20kg bar too (poor Dillu-mon), we resumed our stretching in the circle at the corner of the ground. And DS was working up our sweat. I looked at the others; the routine had moved onto 'hands parallel to the ground and rotating in small circles' and most had expressions of being hung on a cross. I looked at the French gal at the other end. She was the picture of everyone's attention it seemed; c'mon something to take the pinch off the morning-rape. The French gal and her friends would not be coming with us on our trek to Lamkhaga Pass. They had not done enough conditioning and would instead be going to Roop-kund which was considered an easier trek. Still they considered this morning-rape a better way to exercise than 'the stuff for pansies'-as many who had been thrown to the Roop-kund group called it, that took place at the football ground.
As the day's conditioning ended and we walked off across the ground DS called Dillu-mon.
"You have been skipping a lot of conditioning. Aage se fraud math karna. Nahin tho is trek pe nahin aaoge"(Don't skip any more conditioning sessions. Or you won't be allowed to come on this trek)
"I had to organise a cultural function. That's why I couldn't come" Dillu-mon presented his case in his Iam-innocent look. The best he could conjure up.
"Usse koi farakh nahin padtha. apne priorities teek kar lo. Agar aap trek jana chahte ho to conditioning ana padega. No more skipping."(That doesn't make a difference. If you want to go for the trek, you will have to attend conditioning).
Two days later on Sunday there was Double-cross-country(running around the whole insti-twice.once wasn't enough). Dillu-mon overslept and so did Chachan as the Onam celebrations and the heavy Sadhya took their toll. I ran the first round in a daze. I had barely had three-four hours of sleep. My body was still in sleep-mode and several pain-centres and muscles presented themselves during the first round. But I was in a daze and I wanted to see off this damn thing, so I ran and it was like running intoxicated. By the second round my head cleared and I wished it hadn't. Muscles presented themselves which I had hitherto taken for granted and their fatigue put my brain on over-load. When I finished the run at SAC with a gesture like Bolt's I was deliriously happy.
"Damn I have finished this thing"
"C'mon everyone start taking out the tents from the room" It was Dy. DS crying out to us.
For the next one hour we practised pitching every tent there was and rolling them up. As we were leaving DS called me.
"Tell Dillu-mon that he can take back the fee he deposited for the trek. He can go to Roop-kund if he wants. And tell Chachan not to skip any more sessions".
"But...he was responsible for the function like he told you and probably over-slept. Iam sure him and Chachan and can run the x-country later on today" I tried reasoning.
"No. Usually at this point of conditioning we don't let anyone out. But Dillu-mon has skipped far too much. He cannot come for this trek; he can go for Roop-kund if he wants to. And tell Chachan not to skip any more". There was a finality to DS's tone and I realised there was no point arguing.
We would realise it much later, but that was the end of proper conditioning as we knew it. The next week was just a teaser to get our bodies rested for the real-thing. And so it was that of the four of us who started for the trek-Unni, Dillu-mon, Chachan and me, Chachan and I ended up among the twelve that would leave from the insti.